On Movie Sets, The Caterer Is King

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CBS
Look closely at movies behind the scenes and they lose their glamour.

Take after take after take takes its toll, especially when it is cold and raining and the crew has been working all day.

That was the setting a couple of weeks ago on one of the ritziest blocks just off Fifth Avenue in New York City during the filming of "Ghost Town." Thirty-nine days of shooting are scheduled, which means at least two daily catered meals.

Actors Ricki Gervais and Greg Kinnear, the stars of "Ghost Town," know who counts the most in show biz: the people who supply the food.

"When you first start working in this business, you start sucking up to the studio heads," Kinnear told CBS News correspondent Seth Doane. "And then you work your way into directors. But then you realize, all the power really lies in the catering."

The caterer on this shoot is Henry's International. Peter Anders - originally from Poland - does the business side and helps in the kitchen.

"Today's challenge, I guess, would be the crews deciding what time they wanna eat," he said. "No matter what, we have to be ready."


Henry Previl's Lamb Shanks
Henry Previl, who was born in Haiti, trained at a cooking school in Paris. He is the company's chef.

"I'm one of the best chefs," he said. "And I've been all over the world working. I play a big role in the movie industry. I have to keep them happy."

When Doane visited the set, there were 175 people who needed to be fed. Every one of 11 dishes plus the salads are made in one tiny trailer that travels from location to location.

"In a restaurant you have the space," he said. "You have the room to work. And you have everything you need. In the restaurant business, you have the menu set - like, maybe someone's will change the menu twice a year ... But here, you don't. You change the menu every day. If I'm going to be with you for two months, I cannot keep giving you the same thing all over."

Here's the challenge: customers are expecting dinner. They'll want to eat exactly on time. You'll have to offer a number of courses - some vegetarian, at least one meat dish - for 135 people. And you have to cook it all while standing in a small truck.

That's 11 courses plus the salad bar.

"The first day of the shoot when they see me they'll be so happy," Henry said. "They're like "Wow, you know, we're gonna be eating good,' you know?"

Union rules mandate that movie crews have to eat a big meal six hours after the crew arrives. If the food isn't ready, the production is slapped with a fine.

And timing is Henry's big concern tonight. First, rain threatened to move up dinner time. Then, with the caterers ready early, suddenly they're told the crew will be delayed at least an hour. This is typical.

"Then what you do? Your pasta is already cooked. Your vegetables already cooked. You know, like, … wow."

There are tricks Henry uses: "I always wait - like, vegetables take like, what, 10, seven, six minutes to cook. So I don't cook my vegetables until last minute. My pasta, I leave my pasta al dente, you know? My meat, I put my meat like medium rare.

"Got to wait till the last minute to do it. This is what make this job very hard!"

Finally… the moment they've all been waiting for: meal break. One half-hour. Tonight, the meal is served in a rented church near the location.

The filmmakers can only hope that the reviews for "Ghost Story" - due out next summer - are as good as those for the food:

"Very good. Four stars!" one woman said.

Henry says the meal was a complete success. He'll clean up, then get ready to do it all again tomorrow.

"After work? I go home. I sit down. I turn on the TV and I relax. I say, "Thank you, God, the day is over!" he said, laughing.